Tag Archives: predictions

Opening Day: Red Sox ride again

Everybody sing now: The Red Sox don’t have AN ACE!

Yep, yep, we get it. No ACE. No Cole Hamels. No Jon Lester, or Max Scherzer or whoever teams paid way, way, way too much money to satisfy the ACE label.

Nothing with much ado about nothing — other than Kris Bryant’s three-week demotion to the minors this spring — have cluttered up the Internet and talk radio. It’s the one reason why the cool pick this year is not  to pick the Red Sox in the otherwise marginal American League East.

I seriously don’t get it. Do we really believe for a second that if, iifffff, the Red Sox hit July and still haven’t seen a dominate pitcher or two emerge from their starting five and deep minor leagues that they won’t simply go out and overpay just in time for the playoffs? Do we really think that this absolutely LOADED lineup at a time when offenses are dismal throughout the league is not going to mash its way to 90 wins? The Red Sox have SEVEN starting outfielders who could beat out anyone in the defending champs outfield right now. The Triple A team has so much talent it would top the Twins and Phillies right now.

So let’s stop all this nonsense. The Red Sox will win the East, just like Jason Varitek showing the doofus A-Rod who was really in a charge.

Tek

The Central is where it gets really interesting. The Tigers still have a great collection of talent and still have gaping holes in its bullpen, which means it is basically the same team that came oh so close to winning about three World Series the last few years. It’s also the same team that wasn’t good enough to win the World Series and its even older now.

But the Indians and White Sox are loaded with youthful talent. While the Tigers may start to decline, the Indians and White Sox will only get better. And in case you’ve forgotten, a dynamic team from the farms of America that came 90 feet and a Thor-like performance from Madison Bumgarner away from a World Series is back at mostly full strength. This division is awesome, so awesome they may likely pummel each other out of a deserving wild card slot.

In the West, things are just as batty as usual with Billy Beane’s A’s looking like a fantasy team that reworks itself every single week, fighting with the grossly overpaid Angels that somehow still wins thanks to one of the most brilliant managers not named Bruce Bochey to don a uniform in the last fifty years. Neither of these two teams are the best this year though as the Mariners have finally put together that special mix of a few high-priced talents supported by a cadre of young pitching arms. I think the M’s will rue the Nelson Cruz deal for most of that contract, but not this year, much in the way the Red Sox will despise the Pablo Sandoval deal down the road but ride his chubby talent to the playoff this year.

The American League is everything the National League is not, which means turbulent, unpredictable, and likely to come down to the last day before anything at all other than the Red Sox winning the East is decided.

So, my picks:

East: Red Sox
Central: Royals (I watched this team in the playoff last year absolutely find itself. It’s for real, just like the Tigers injury woes).
West: Mariners
Wild Card: Indians and Angels… nah…A’s, Orioles, A’s… Blue Jays??? EFF it: Orioles.

*I hate picking against Buck Showalter. I hate picking against Billy Beane. I hate picking against Mike Scoscia. I’ll go with Orioles because I don’t think the Rays or the Yankees will be very good at all.

National League picks are here.

NL Champ: Nationals. They are so good you have to think they finally break down.
AL Champ: Red Sox. They’ll get an ace. Enough said.

World Series Champs: This will be a great World Series, despite the Giants not being involved. The Nationals will be heavily favored, but the Red Sox and the aura of Fenway will cost the Nats at least one game. There’s a reason the Red Sox, Cardinals and Giants have won eight of the last eleven World Series. From top to bottom their organizations are proven winners. But the Nationals are about to enter their stratosphere. The strikeouts bother me, especially in the World Series. Everything tells me Sox in seven, but… gut feeling here. Nationals in seven.

nationals-articleLarge

Only 180 or more games to go!

Opening Day: Dodgers team to hate the most

The grass is Eden-like green. The first pitches have been tossed across the country. Bats smack, gloves pop, organs trill and life is good again.

Nothing like Opening Day to turn writers of prose into flawed fumbles of poetry. It’s just a lyrical game, far too often poorly described, much like romantic love that never quite reads like it feels. You just have to live it.

The two best words in my lexicon: play ball. Two other fun ones:

Prediction time.

I’ll leave the mashup that is the American League this year for a minute and get into the Senior Circuit, where truly great teams still exist and dominate the hopes of those trying to knock them off the pedestal. But the greatest of those teams likely won’t be among the playoff finishers this year. The Giants won’t repeat.

But the Nationals, Dodgers, Cardinals and maybe even the Pirates will. History tells us one of these teams will endure a bad rash of injuries and head-scratching slumps and maybe not live up to its potential. History tells us the Dodgers are the least likely to weather these types of turmoil. The stopgap solutions of Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins are not as great as people think, especially Rollins who at 36 may be the worst leadoff hitter in the National League.

The Dodgers are on their way to building a similar perennial power, while temporarily playing the awful Yankee-like overspender to bridge the gap. They have spent gazillions to offer some competitive teams while rebuilding from the inside out to make franchise, which took a ton of money, but also a lot of baseball smarts. But I’m still not sure they are going to put it all together this year. I want to believe they won’t. They’ve been good, but they’re going to soon be great. I hate ’em (though the All-time Giants still kick the All-Time Dodgers arses). But I love Vin Scully and for him alone (and the sheer joy of listening to him call a ballgame, I’m predicting they win the division).

The Nationals and Cardinals may be two of the best run organizations in sports. They have built powerhouses. The Nationals have so far mostly underachieved while the Cards have proven they can overachieve when it counts the most, much like the Giants who seem to be the only team that has their number in recent years.

The Cubs are coming. Joe Maddon was a brilliant hire, perhaps the one guy Theo Epstein wanted more than Jon Lester and he ended up getting both. Maddon alone makes the Cubs a contender in my book. The downside is all that young talent will take some time to sort itself out. They will strike out … A LOT… and as much as during the steroid era strikeouts didn’t matter much, they are absolutely killing teams again (rightly so… not that real baseball skills like moving runner and turning over the lineup are back). I wonder if Maddon is great enough to offset the terrible dead spots the strikeouts will create. I can’t decide.

I can decide on the Padres. Everyone is excited about them much they way they were excited about the Blue Jays last year after its spending spree and the Marlins the year before that in its spending spree and so many other teams that suddenly grow sick of stinking up the joint and decide, EFF THIS, and start spending money like Bernie Madoff before his prison stint.

The problem is it never works. Ever. The only times big spending works is when it’s coupled with deep internal talent. The Yankees overspent for decades but only won four championships when Big Money George was banished and the team was allowed to nurture the likes of Derrick Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada. The Dodgers outspent everyone but didn’t have the chemistry the Giants develop with consistency through its organization.

The Padres didn’t spend as recklessly as its predecessors but it gave away years of accumulated talent. Justin Upton can hit it out of the cavernous Petco Park, but my bet is Matt Kemp looks nothing like his old MVP self and just looks old. The pitchers will be good, but they are always are and the offense can’t be as bad as its been, but it still won’t be great. I see a near miss for this team and then back to the depths where it has been.

The surprise team in the West, if there is one, is the Rockies. The team can mash, thanks in part to its mile-high park. In an era where everyone has pitching, few teams have hitting, so the Rockies could stand out especially because it may, just may, just just may may have enough pitching to make one of its once a decade or so runs. The Marlins are going to be good. They have sooo much talent, but again the Cubs problem of youth and strikeouts could hurt them. I see the Cubs and see the Marlins and see two similar teams, but I see Joe Maddon and the Marlins fade away.

There is little else in the National League that interests me.

So the predictions:

East: Nationals
Central: Pirates
West: Dodgers
Wild Cards: Rockies, Cardinals (or maybe the Giants and then God forbid the other teams in the playoffs, but I suspect that’s wishful thinking.

Check back tomorrow for the American League, the playoffs and the World Series predictions.

Sadly, Giants #everyotheryear pace will continue

It’s a day of worshp… tomorrow. We celebrated Easter on Holy Saturday (much like how Black Friday shopping leaked into Thanksgiving gluttony, which first seemed like an afront, but actually makes sense of what Thanksgiving has become if you think about it… bottom line, in this impatient culture we’d have never stood for Jesus in a tomb for three days. You get two-and-a-half and then get your live ass out here, thank you very much). I think God allows me a fair amount of sacriledge when it comes to baseball. She’s a fan too, and likely a Giants Fan. How else can you explain the 2014 playoffs? More on that to come.

No, the holiday I’m now focused on as we enjoy the other side of Easter today (chocolate, family, fun and a teaser night baseball game, which too is early and out of place, but we’ll take it!) is Opening Day!

Opening Day is something of a holiday for me, far more than the Super Bowl or even some of the three-day weekend holidays that crop up expectedly unexpectedly each year. When Opening Day finally arrives each year, I try to turn on the early day games and keep watching until the last one on the West Coast is played. After several months of absence I’m ready for the background music of baseball to re-enter my life.

I also make predictions each year though nobody but me has much invested in the picks. But writing about baseball while watching baseball is about as good as it gets. Come tomorrow as Opening Day launches, I’ll be happily doing both.

Before the pitch is tossed on this season, lets put the last historic and exhilarating season to bed, with a final look at my predictions.

My picks last year were a strange brew of very right and very wrong: I picked all five NL playoff teams only getting the Dodgers and Giants mixed up as division winner. The American League was more of a mess.  I got three of the five playoff teams in the Angels, A’s and Orioles, but none in the right place. The Indians pick was a year premature and the Rays a year or six too late. Eight out of ten is pretty strong but like the rest of the free world, I went 0 for 2 picking in picking the World Series teams and eventual champion. As a Giants fan, I’ll gladly admit I was wrong.

Here’s the rub though. I picked the Nationals to win it all. Had the Giants not pulled off what history will show as one of the great upsets in baseball, the Nationals would have been champs. This is the missing story from the 2014 season and deserves a book of its own to cement the legacy of that incredible turn of events that gave the Giants a third, #everyotheryear crown. They were, at best, the 8th best team in the playoffs last year. Yet they ran the gauntlet of three straight series as the decided underdogs and won by a single run in the 7th and final game. Shoot, I need to write that book.

The Nationals were the best team last year. They far outmatched the Giants at virtually every position. Had Bruce Bochey not schooled Matt Williams like an old Kung Fu master, my pick would have turned out correct. Had the Giants not somehow won an 18-inning game because Williams didn’t let the dominant Jordan Zimmerman finish the ninth, the series would have been over right there. Anyone seeing that lineup of five lefties against the Nationals Gio Gonzalez should know how badly the Giants were over-matched and outgunned. They had huge holes throughout and Triple A guys all over the bench, their highest paid pitcher and their lead-off hitter were injured and yet, they still won. Amazing. Move over ’69 Mets, I think the Giants will take that title now.

And let’s set the record straight over the shibboleth that great managers don’t impact the game in baseball? Look back the records of a Davey Johnson, Buck Showalter, Mike Scoscia, Joe Maddon, Tony LaRussa, Terry Francona and a handful of others who simply win where ever they go. None of this cast of greatness though can match The Boch come playoff time.

Bochey is simply a shaman. He’s the best, which is why the Giants have won a World Series #everyotheryear this decade.

But those holes, that mediocre lineup, the lack of talent on the field at AT&T Park, the lack of depth, the aging, overpaid guys, well their all mostly back which means sadly, the Giants are in no position to repeat. I blame Brian Sabean as much as I exalt Bruce Bochey. The Giants won’t win this year. That much I’ll bet the house on. Their will be plenty of room on the water this October in McCovey Cove.

As for my predictions this year… check back tomorrow. As I said, I love to write about baseball on Opening Day, so I’ll be writing all day as I watch the games that will add so much to the next several months of my life.

Call your shot: Oscar ballot is in

When it comes to the red carpet, we simply do not tolerate Monday morning experts. To join the after party conversation (and bragging rights) you have to call your shot first, before 5:30 Pacific Standard Time on Sunday Feb. 22.

The Bride wages a spirited battle each year for supremacy of the household. But even when I lose, like last year by ONE POINT, I remain convinced I know better than even the Academy itself.

I lost last year to take a stand for David O. Russell, who on two consecutive years wrote such compelling characters that his actors won nominations in all the top four acting categories. Eight for eight over two years and he doesn’t win a writing award? It’s a travesty of justice.

So take note especially of the “should” win category of which I am most proud. Losing does not daunt me nor discourage me, though I plan on returning to my rightful place with Oscar in hand this year. (and try to avoid stubborn votes like my Russell vote last year when I knew it would likely cost me).

Without further ado, my ballot:

  • Three points for Best Picture
  • Two points for Best Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, Director
  • One point for the other categories.
1) Best Picture: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash.
WINNER:  Birdman
SHOULD WIN: The Imitation Game.
Even though nominated for best picture, The Imitation Game is still underrated. The movie ended and I said simply, “brilliant.” It was also important.
Birdman is incredible too, but it’s ending was a cop out. A movie, a story, a song, whatever it is, has to end. The ending is part of the story like the beginning. The unexplained look skyward by Emma Stone was a movie trick to create discussion… to raise debate by not doing their job to write the end.
oscar2
If you don’t believe me revisit this debate on one of the most controversial endings in recent years, The Sopranos.
2) Best Director: Alejandro G’inarritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel), Morten Tyldum (The Immitation Game).
WINNER: G’inarritu
SHOULD WIN: Linklater
Many want to give Boyhood the best picture because of the sheer tenacity and genius of making a movie over 12 years. (At one point The Bride told me “they sure are finding kids of different ages that look the same.”)  But as good an indie movie as this was — and it was very good — it simply didn’t match the awe-inspiring power of leading best picture candidates including The Theory of Everything. But here is where it should shine and where Linklater, the true hero of the movie, should get his due. But… ah but, the risk of a mock one-cut movie made Birdman artistically transcendent and for that jewel, I think he wins here. I really can’t argue it, though my love of indies pulls for Linklater.
3) Best Actor: Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Immitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything).
WINNER: Michael Keaton
SHOULD WIN: Benedict Cumberbatch
The most interesting battle of the night. Redmayne is the favorite. For sheer physical expression and acting without words he likely deserves the award. But I’m going for the upset (The Russell Mistake flashes in my brain). I think Keaton will be honored for his comeback and his longevity. I return again to The Imitation Game, where the brilliance I mentioned earlier was largely attributable to Cumberbatch. He excels among this powerful slate of actors.
oscar4
Ah crap, even as I write this I think Redmayne will win. What is wrong with me?
4) Best Actress: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything), Julienne Moore (Still Alice), Rosa Mund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild).
WINNER: Julienne Moore
SHOULD WIN: Rosa Mund Pike.
I’m blatantly hedging my bets, which could backfire. But if Redmayne wins, I suspect Jones will as well. This category lacks the sizzle of other years, which is why Juliene Moore might sneak in and grab it. I need to make sure I get one win if Keaton loses so I’ll go with the favorite Moore.
All the performances were good, yet only one in my mind approached great and that was Pike. The physicality of her ability to change her look is impressive. But her demeanor and persona conveyed the truly borderline personality that dominates this film.
5) Best Supporting Actor: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
WINNER: JK Simmons
SHOULD WIN: Robert Duvall
Barely second only to the actor category for competitive balance, these were all strong performances. But they have all but given the Oscar to the Farmer’s Insurance guy, and I can’t get my head around it. His mercurial performance as a megalomaniac band teacher (just dreaming up that combination and making it convincing is commendable for both writer and actor) is powerful. But I thought it was a bit limited. Norton was impressive. His range in this performance is the true definition of a supporting actor. He enlivens every scene. Yet somehow I lean toward Duvall, who like Robert Downey Jr. in the same movie, started playing a role very consistent with his career but slowly and surely he broke out into a depth of acting that speaks to his long, illustrious career. In a photo finish I would give it to him, even though the movie was way, way, way too long.
6) Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightly (The Immitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods).
WINNER: Arquette
SHOULD WIN: Keira Knightly
Again I don’t fully understand the march to anoint Arquette any more than Simmons. But I don’t see anyone beating her, which is amazing considering the talent in this category. How Streep doesn’t win every year stuns me. Stone was even better than when she was in The Help. But Knightly is whimsical, serious, captivating and a key role in the best movie of the year.
7) Best Foriegn Language Film: Ida (Poland), Leviathan (Russia), Tangerines (Estonia), Timbuktu (Mauritania), Wild Tales (Argentina).
WINNER: Ida
SHOULD WIN: Leviathan
Leviathan has everything a great movie should have in this country except English so it can get consideration for the bigger awards. But Ida has what the Academy loves, a holocaust story that is deeply moving.
8) Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Hall (American Sniper), Graham Moore (Imitation Game), Hall Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice), Anothony McCarton (Theory of Everything), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
WINNER: Theory of Everything
SHOULD WIN: Theory
The one category I simply could not pick a winner.  Whiplash is built off its script. Without that, it is a low-grade indie that few watch. With it, it’s an Oscar nominee.
oscar3
As such, the rather contrived ending of the drummer taking a concert hostage after he already once played immediately following a car crash just went too far to prove the nuttiness of this teacher/student relationship. Thus, I give it to The Theory of Everything and hope the Academy agrees.
9) Best Original Screenplay: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler
WINNER: Birdman
SHOULD WIN: Boyhood
I love the screenplay for Birdman, but the true originality of Boyhood’s entire arc flowed from the writing. In true indie fashion the tight dialogue drives this long film and makes it seem far less long than say, The Judge, which despite incredible acting seemed 45 minutes too long and didn’t know where to end. Birdman’s greatness is the directing that I think empowers the screenplay itself (especially the bogus ending). Boyhood deserves its due and I think this is where the Linklater earns it.
10) Best Original Song: Everything is Awesome (Lego Movie), Glory (Selma), Grateful (beyond the lights), I’m not gonna miss you (Glen Campbell, I’ll Be Me), Lost Stars (Begin Again).
WINNER: Glory
SHOULD WIN: Glory
I can’t see how this delicate mix of crooning John Legend and rapping by Common with all its significance in light of #Ferguson does not dominate.
11) Best Animated Feature: Big Hero Six, Box Trolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea, Tale of Princess Kaguia
WINNER:  How to Train Your Dragon 2
SHOULD WIN: Dragon
The experts are all over this one, so who I am to argue, since I didn’t watch a one.
12) Best Documentary Feature: Citizen Four, Finding Vivian Meyer, Last Days of Vietnam, The Salt of the Earth, Verunga
WINNER: Citizen Four
SHOULD WIN: Citizen Fout
I think the Academy will make a pro-Snowden statement here and again, I didn’t watch these so…
13) Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Malifacent, Mr. Turner
WINNER: Grand Budapest
SHOULD WIN: Grand Budapest
Into the Woods might snag this one, but the unique costumes and colors and subsequent shots used by the director of Budapest are his signature and what makes his movies his.
Come on Academy, prove me right. Sunday night I shall sing with Queen, “We are the champions… my friends!”